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What is a Birth Injury?
Birth injuries can happen during the birthing process or immediately before or after birth.
It’s estimated that 7 out of 1,000 babies born in the United States will be injured during birth.
Babies sometimes suffer physical injuries simply by passing through the birth canal. These injuries are often minor and do not need to be treated.
In other cases, birth injuries can lead to more serious complications, sometimes even causing lifelong disability. Permanent injuries could affect physical, emotional, or cognitive development.
While many birth injury cases occur naturally, others result from medical mistakes hospitals and health care professionals make. When preventable birth injuries occur, it is often considered medical malpractice or negligence.
Birth injuries leave families unprepared to face the demanding emotional and financial challenges of lifelong care for a special needs child. A birth injury lawyer can help.
The compensation received in a birth injury lawsuit can help pay for the cost of care. This money can significantly improve the quality of life for the injured child.
What Are Some Common Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries differ from birth defects, which usually develop within the first trimester of pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), birth defects likely have genetic, environmental, and behavioral causes.
On the other hand, birth injuries happen during the birthing process, whether before, during, or immediately after childbirth. Birth injuries can be the result of complications during labor or delivery.
Some common types of birth injuries are:
- Bleeding in the brain
- Bone fractures
- Brachial plexus injury
- Brain damage or swelling
- Cephalohematoma (accumulation of blood between the skull and the scalp)
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Facial nerve injury or paralysis
- Fetal distress or lack of oxygen in the brain
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy or HIE (when the baby’s brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen or blood flow)
- Injuries related to the use of forceps or vacuum extraction
- Intracranial hemorrhages
- Kernicterus (when bilirubin collects in the brain due to untreated jaundice)
- Nerve damage
- Shoulder dystocia (when one or both of the baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis)
- Skull fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Stillbirths and death
- Umbilical cord strangulation
Birth injuries can be caused by doctors, obstetricians, and other health care professionals involved in labor or delivery. In some cases, this is the result of not correctly responding to the medical condition of the mother or baby.
Circumstances can vary significantly in each delivery, and they can change rapidly. When medical professionals fail to respond to these conditions promptly, the results can be catastrophic for innocent families.
What Are the Causes of Birth Injuries?
The trauma of a difficult birth can leave families feeling devastated and exhausted. It is often not until some time has passed and reality has set in that parents begin to wonder what caused their child’s injury.
While the answer varies in each situation, birth injuries are commonly caused by the size of the baby or their position during labor and delivery.
Additional risk factors that can cause birth trauma include:
- Abnormal birthing position of the baby, such as buttocks first (breech)
- Babies over 8 pounds, 13 ounces
- Difficult delivery or labor
- Inadequate size or shape of the mother’s pelvis
- Maternal obesity
- Prematurity (live births before 37 weeks)
- Prolonged labor
Although many serious birth injuries can not be prevented, others result from medical negligence.
Doctors can make mistakes such as improperly reading an ultrasound or failing to spot issues on a fetal heart monitor. Screening errors can lead to inappropriate medical advice and improper obstetric medical care.
Additional examples of medical mistakes that may cause birth injury include:
- Allowing a vaginal delivery when a C-Section (cesarean section) was medically necessary.
- Failing to detect neonatal complications such as problems with the umbilical cord.
- Not diagnosing infections that can cause complications such as brain injuries.
- Not preventing oxygen deprivation can result in asphyxia or brain damage to the baby.
- Using vacuum extractors or forceps to pull on the baby’s head can cause nerve damage, skull fracture, cranial hematomas, or brain hemorrhage.
In medical malpractice cases, financial compensation may be available. A birth injury lawsuit can recover the money families rely on to care for their children.
What Are the Symptoms of a Birth Injury?
Symptoms of a birth injury can be difficult to detect. While some birth injuries are evident upon birth, others may not be apparent for months or even years.
Warning signs that could indicate a birth injury include:
- Abnormal muscle tone (stiffness or weakness)
- Experiencing seizures within 48 hours of birth
- Hearing or vision problems
- Inability to move one or more limbs
- Lagging behind on or missing certain developmental milestones
- Showing a preference for using one arm or hand over the other
Routine pediatric appointments will likely uncover a birth injury over time. However, it is essential to monitor your child carefully, especially if your baby was born prematurely or had complications during labor or delivery.
What Should I Do if My Baby Has a Birth Injury?
If you believe your baby has a birth injury, you should bring your child to a doctor to discuss what type of injury they might have. Many birth injuries are temporary and may not require medical treatment. They may be soft tissue injuries that heal within a few weeks. However, there could be a fracture or damaged nerves that require special care in some cases.
Medical bills can be of great concern for families affected by birth injuries. The thought of unexpected lifelong care can be extremely worrisome and feel overwhelming. Additionally, families may feel confused or even angry if they suspect a medical mistake caused their baby’s suffering, but they don’t know how to prove it.
In these cases, families are encouraged to contact a birth injury lawyer. Experienced birth injury attorneys have handled many types of birth injury lawsuits and know what to look for. They also usually have registered nurses on staff who can help.
Can You Sue for a Birth Injury?
Parents of children with birth injuries may be able to file a claim against hospitals, doctors, and other medical professionals if malpractice or negligence caused their child’s injury. This is because lifelong care can far exceed the amount of money any family may have at their disposal.
Expenses involved in caring for a child injured at birth may include:
- Assistive devices
- Doctors’ visits
- Emergency room visits
- Home and car modifications
- Inpatient hospital stays
- Medical treatments and medications
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Special education
- Special recreational activities
Parents may also find their work suffers due to taking time away to care for their child. This can result in lost wages or even termination. Additionally, many children with birth injuries may be unable to enter the workforce due to their disability.
When all the costs of a preventable birth injury are factored in, they can quickly become astronomical. In many cases, families have no choice but to pursue compensation through a birth injury lawsuit. A successful birth injury lawsuit could allow your family to receive the critical funds needed to care for your child.
How Long After a Birth Injury Can You Sue?
Birth injury lawsuits are time-sensitive due to state laws called statutes of limitations. These statutes limit the time you have to take legal action — in some states, you have as little as one year from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.
Thankfully, birth injury attorneys are well-versed in these laws and can ensure that your case is filed within the requisite time frame.
A birth injury lawyer and their dedicated legal team will work with you every step of the way, so you can focus on your family. They will help gather the evidence needed to prove that your child’s injury could have been prevented.
If you’re worried about a lengthy court battle, remember that most birth injury lawsuits are settled out of court. Hospitals and doctors generally prefer to settle cases quickly, avoiding the bad press and expensive court fees.
How Do I Find a Birth Injury Lawyer?
If you would like to speak with a birth injury lawyer, we can help. Contact us for a free, no-obligation legal consultation with a skilled, knowledgeable birth injury lawyer.
We can connect you with birth injury lawyers who have decades of experience, have nurses on staff, and do not charge upfront or out-of-pocket fees. They only accept a fee if and when your case successfully secures compensation.